The cold winter months are upon us and with many colder days ahead, it is important that patients undergoing treatment, such as targeted therapy or immunotherapy, take additional precautions to remain as healthy as possible. The list below provides some important tips on cold-weather care:
Reduce risks of influenza
The Cancer Care Ontario resource “Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Toxicity Management: Clinical Practice Guideline” states that given the lack of evidence, live vaccines are not recommended for those on immune checkpoint inhibitors. Discuss options with your healthcare provider on how you can avoid the flu. You can also take the following steps to avoid the flu:
- Avoid large crowds and take rain checks on seeing people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms or are sick; consider wearing a facemask if visiting hospitals or other centers where disease may be prominent.
- Practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands frequently, and keep your hands away from your mouth and nose.
- Keep household surfaces clean (e.g. doorknobs, handles, etc.).
- Limit touching potentially infected people.
This may be tricky to do during the holiday season, but it is important to be vigilant as your immune system is already in overdrive.
- Skin Protection
The cold weather can be harsh on the skin, and it is possible to experience skin problems as side effects if you are undergoing treatment, such as rashes, itchy skin, blisters, peeling, sores, and ulcers. If you are experiencing any of these side effects, talk to your healthcare provider about what you can do to relieve any discomfort you may be experiencing. They may offer a prescription or remedy to help with your skin care. Remember to continue to practice sun safety during the winter months by applying sunscreen (SPF 50+), covering up, and staying out of the sun. Avoid using hot water in baths or showers. Moisturize. Remain hydrated. It may also be helpful to use mild soaps for sensitive skin, and using a scent and dye free clothing detergent.
You may be staying up late to ring in the New Year or for other social events taking place over the holiday season, but get as much sleep as possible. Fatigue is a common side effect of treatment, and it is important to listen to your body when it tells you it needs rest. Sleep when you can and when you need it.
- Psychosocial support
While family and friends may surround you throughout the holiday season, you may still experience feelings of isolation, anxiety, and stress while dealing with your cancer diagnosis. Sometimes it is best to speak with someone outside your inner circle who has experienced a cancer diagnosis to share your concerns. MNC offers support groups in the following cities: Calgary, Oakville, Oshawa, and Aurora. To learn more about support groups, visit https://www.melanomanetwork.ca/supportgroups/.
If you are looking for one-on-one support, MNC offers a Peer-to-Peer program, which matches and connects patients with a trained and certified peer who has experienced a similar journey. To find out more about Peer-to-Peer, visit https://www.melanomanetwork.ca/peer-to-peer/. You can also reach out to Mary Zawadzki, Patient Care Specialist, to receive psychosocial support at email@example.com | 1-877-560-8035 ext. 108.
 Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Toxicity Management. Clinical Practice Guideline [Internet]. 2018 Mar 21 [cited 2019 Nov 19]. Available from https://www.cancercareontario.ca/en/content/immune-checkpoint-inhibitor-toxicity-management-clinical-practice-guideline.
 Skin Reactions to Targeted Therapy and Immunotherapy. 2019 Jul[cited 2019 Nov 19]